Fake It Till You Make It? Why People Act Like They're Truly Rich (When They're Really Poor)

Sometimes there is just a need to appear better than you actually are to get what you want. Here's where the Truly Rich Lady draws the line.

Consider the tale of Wanda Wily. She wasn’t born into the Truly Rich World. In fact, she began life swimming in the yuk-yuk of the unwashed masses (I mean no offense!).

Gifted with the valuable currency of an alabaster complexion, an adorable ski-jump nose, and thick duck lips or, in other words, an irresistible beauty that set her apart from the brown swarm, she was able to will herself into the Vaguely Rich Lifestyle.

Chroniclers of her rise attribute this to good genes, a bit of luck, and an overflowing aptitude for cunning. Ever since she was young, people mistook Miss Wanda, the Fair, as someone important. Her glowing milk skin must mean she had means. She made no effort to correct them.

In fact, she did the opposite, building a reputation as some sort of rich daughter from a distant land. Wanda adopted a new bearing (observed from wealthier friends), a new accent (copied from her favorite American movies), a new hairstyle (ripped from the pages of a glossy), and a new set of manners (from the bible, Emily Post’s Etiquette).

She wormed her way into the fringes of good society, appearing on the arms of many so-and-sos—a string of hopelessly beguiled rich men who thought she was one of their own and never caught on, because before they discovered who Wanda really was, she would leave them heartbroken and a couple of millions lighter. 

Wanda finally settled on Darling Dondy Drumstrong, a hardworking gruff with a balding pate, a decent portfolio, and a good enough pile beside (not inside) the stronghold of the Truly Rich.


Some say she is a success story. A woman who made it to the almost top with nothing but her thick face! Her cleverness is to be commended! Kudos and congratulations!

Others say she is a yuk-yuk. The gross maxim, “fake it till you make it,” comes to mind. When someone thinks you are rich, but you really are not, doesn’t it feel dirty to keep them in the dark? Not only are you fooling the (stupid) fellow who assumes you are someone else, you are also lying to yourself. Before you know it, you will no longer the person staring back from the mirror. (It is because of the face injections.)

But then again, aren’t we all fooling each other? Unless you are one of the maybe seven people at the very top, you will find yourself in some sort of lie. Sometimes there is just a need to appear better than you actually are in order to get what you want: a seat upgrade, a seat at the committee, a dream job, attention at an important restaurant. So what’s the big deal about continuing a lie that only paints you in a better light?

Well, it can be burdensome.

Funny story: Years ago, I, Si-si Coo, the Truly Rich Lady, found myself in a very fancy jewelry shop on Place Vendôme. While milling about the glittering wares, the pinched-faced sales person all of a sudden asked if “Madame would like to see the special collection of natural scenes formed by pink sapphires, rare diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and other fine elements? Oui? “Oui.”

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I knew I had means and, on that day, looked like I had serious cash to burn (where else do you wear your best fashion but in Paris?), but I also knew that I did not wish to purchase a suite of birds, flowers, and leaves—a veritable forest!—masquerading as pins, earrings, an unwieldy cocktail ring, a tiara, and a bracelet-watch. Maybe a flowerette or two, but not and never the entire forest. I did not need to. I already have too many baubles inherited from my Great-Great-Grandmother.

So I began to sweat. A tiny bead of weakness erupted on the base of my hairline and then slowly dribbled down my face like a tear, but grosser.

In my most exquisite French, which must have sounded like cow sounds to the real French, I declared that I cannot afford these things. “Les miserable! Je suis le miserable,” I said while clutching dramatically the junior jewelry around my neck. I exited the double doors as a pauper with no new jewels would, but the truth set me free.

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C.C. Coo
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